Sunday night, we learned from the New York Times that ESPN Head Honcho John Skipper and cable television refugee Keith Olbermann had gone to dinner to talk about a possible role at the Worldwide Leader. And after some analysis, it was thought by observers, including by your humble writer, that the chances of an ESPN-Keithy reunion were slim to none.
However, as Lee Corso loves to say, "Not so fast, my friend," it appears that where there's smoke, there's fire. The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre who seems to have as many ESPN sources as Peter King has in the NFL writes that bringing Olbermann on board is Skipper's idea and could happen as early as May. And while some have believed the story in the Times was an Olbermann plant, McIntyre says it was Skipper's to feel out Disney executives who would have approve a K.O. sequel with ESPN.
The Big Lead notes that Rick Reilly's contract is coming up soon and Keithy could replace Reilly on ESPN.com and fill his pundit role that never really took off. And there's ESPN Radio New York which could use Olbermann as a personality to take on WFAN.
Can this whole thing between ESPN and Olbermann work? If we take a look at Keith's second tour with MSNBC, it began nicely with increased ratings for his Countdown program and a new identity for the network. However, just like Keith's previous gigs, he ended up leaving on bad terms following a contribution to a congressional candidate, a no-no for any news anchor.
As talented as K.O. is, there's always the potential of things blowing up. Olbermann is the bottle of nitroglycerin that you know will explode, but stlll keep on your counter knowing full well the danger of it all.
If it is true that John Skipper wants Keith Olbermann for ESPN, he must know there's a high risk. But if Skipper can keep Olby at arm's length and away from the rank and file in Bristol, then the risk can be minimized. An ESPN-Olbermann marriage may not be as far-fetched as we thought.